Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Northern Ireland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 11:06 GMT
Republic drops claim to NI
Peter Mandelson (left) and David Andrews sign the treaty Peter Mandelson (left) and David Andrews sign the treaty

As Northern Ireland woke up to a fledgling devolved government, the Irish Constitution was amended to remove the republic's territorial claim to the north.

Political power was devolved to the province's new power-sharing executive at midnight on Wednesday, ending 25 years of direct rule by Westminster.
The Search for Peace
More related to this story
George Mitchell Profile
Link to Sinn Fein
Link to UUP
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson and the Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews exchanged papers to establish North-South Institutions.

The short ceremony took place in Iveagh House, the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the republic's capital city.

More than 120 guests were invited to attend the event, including school children, church and political leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.

They witnessed the birth of the north-south ministerial council, the north-south implementation bodies, the British-Irish intergovernmental conference and British-Irish Council.

The 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement was consigned to history.

Red letter day

Mr Andrews said it was a "red letter day" which should never be forgotten.

He said that the twin causes of peace and partnership should be dedicated to those who had suffered peace and loss, so that the island should never again be "divided by bitterness and riven by conflict."

He said the Irish Goverment was "deeply, deeply in the debt" of former US senator George Mitchell who chaired a 10-week review of the workings of the Good Friday Agreement.

But he also paid tribute to the "vision, courage and leadership" of Northern Ireland's politicians.

"The true success of the agreement will be judged by whether it frees the people of Ireland, north and south, nationalist and unionist, to live and work together without regard to labels or categories," he said.

These are indeed momentous steps
Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson said it was an historic day when the politicians took charge of their own affairs.

He said the steps being taken were "momentous".

"The people of Northern Ireland and the people of these islands as a whole will feel the benefits in their daily lives, of the institutions being establish today, because their leaders have set out on the path to political stability and unbreakable peace and I believe they will not turn back," he said.

He added that a new "unique" chapter was opened in relations between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK with the "new architecture of institutional links."

Irish premier Bertie Ahern said there was a universal committment to the use of exclusively peaceful and democratic means to advance political objectives.

The Irish Cabinet will now go to the Irish parliament, the Dail, where the amendments to articles two and three of the Irish Constitution which lay claim to Northern Ireland will be made law.

David Andrews David Andrews: Key figure
BBC NI Dublin Correspondent Shane Harrison said: "They will be replaced by new articles which define the Irish nation in terms of people rather than territory, and which incorporate into the constitution, the principle that there can be no change to the constitutional position without the consent of the majority."

Once revoked, articles the old two and three cannot be reintroduced.

Belfast Ulster Unionist Councillor Chris McGimpsey who made an unsuccessful legal challenge to articles two and three in a Dublin court almost ten years ago, said it was a great day for unionists.

"They (the articles) were deeply resented by the unionist community, they were denying the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland state," he said.

"They were also, of course, used by the IRA as a spurious moral justification for their campaign.

"They were simply putting into action, the demands that the Irish state had in their constitution, would have been the line they would have taken."

Devolution from midnight

Legislation paving the way for the formal transfer of powers to the new executive were passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday at Westminster and given Royal Assent by the Queen on Wednesday.

Responsibility for key issues such as health, education, finance and culture will now pass to the assembly and locally elected politicians for the first time in a generation.

On Thursday, the Northern Ireland Executive is due to meet for the first time and will begin to take political responsibility for most of the departments currently dealt with by Northern Ireland Office.

The IRA is also expected to appoint its "interlocutor" or representative to the de Chastelain body on the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

All the events were laid out in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement signed 18 months ago.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
NI's new Stormont ministers
30 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
McGuinness promises fair treatment
01 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Devolution 'giant step', says Blair
01 Dec 99 |  Europe
Ireland's landmark change
30 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Assembly to elect committees
29 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Slow steps into shared future
27 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Timeline: Good Friday to agreement
28 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Timetable: The road to devolution

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Northern Ireland stories